Wooton Desks



2015-06-26 10:35:55

A Wooton desk is a form of fall-front storage desk, patented by the furniture maker William S. Wooton.

History and Background

The Wooton desk takes its name from its creator, William S. Wooton, born in 1835. After winning first prize at the Indiana State Fair for his ‘school house desk’, he formed the Wooton Desk Company in 1870 and began to patent his designs.

Wooton desks were created to include numerous small compartments and hidden storage, for the easy filing and containment of paperwork and other office items. The desks matched a growing need for such storage, and were in many ways a product of the industrial revolution. They employed the technologies of the time to produce a piece of furniture to support those in industry, who were accustomed to larger volumes of correspondence than ever before.

The wooton desk helped to keep their working areas as a self-contained and tidy space. Wooton continued to oversee production of the desks until his retirement in 1884, though they were still produced until 1891. Many significant historical figures are said to have relied upon Wooton’s ingenious desks as an organisational tool, amongst them Queen Victoria and several American presidents.

Guide for collectors

Wooton desks, whilst probably not the costliest desks for sale, were in all likelihood those with the most storage space on offer. The 'armoire' desk is the closest relative to the Wooton desk, in both structure and size, though it is even larger than the Wooton.

The Wooton secretary desk rests upon four legs, equipped with additional casters. The body of the desk contained a dozen or more smaller drawers and pigeon holes for paperwork and smaller objects requiring storage. As in a 'fall front desk', the primary surface area is hinged and lifted from the horizontal to vertical side, in order to lock up the desk. This forces the user to store and gather up all the papers at once.

The Wooton desk hides only a few of it's numerous small nooks and drawers; the real enclosure of the desk is created upon closing two large hinged panels, which are in turn filled with several drawers. Wooton desks are highly desirable at auction.

Notable auction sales

Wooton desks can sell for thousands of pounds if in good condition, as has been proven at several auctions. On 14th September 2006, Antiquarian Traders sold a Wooton rolltop desk for $20000, whilst at the same auction they also sold an Eastlake style Wooton secretary's desk for $28000, with Antiquarian Traders having previously sold a Rockefeller style Wooton desk for $35000 on 31st August 2006 and another Rockefeller style Wooton desk on 28th September 2006 for $25000.

Elsewhere, Clars Auction Gallery sold a rolltop Wooton rotary desk on 10th October 2004 for $2750, and Cowan's Auctions, Inc., in an auction held on 8th October 2011, sold an American renaissance Wooton desk for $3750.

Fontaines Auction Gallery sold a three-hinge desk for $7000 on 13th November 2010, and Great American Auction sold a walnut cylinder desk on 9th December 2006, for $4250.

At a lower price point, Dallas Auction Gallery sold a Wooton walnut rotary desk on 3rd October 2007, for $950.

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